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crime fiction

Detail from the cover of “Eleven Pipers Piping”

Beware This Boy
By Maureen Jennings, McClelland & Stewart, 297 pages, $24.95

Ignorance is not bliss. That's the short and firm message in this terrific second Tom Tyler mystery from Maureen Jennings. Fans who mourn for the Murdoch tales of Victorian Toronto should not despair; he will return. But the Tyler series, set in Second World War England, shows all of Jennings's talent for historical mystery. It's November, 1940, and Britain is at its lowest point. Invasion seems imminent and bombs are routine. For the girls who work in the munitions plants, though, it's talk of dances and lipsticks and frocks. But a mistake can cost you a hand or a life. So when one of Birmingham's factories explodes, killing several workers, at first it doesn't seem a case for Detective Inspector Tyler. But events soon prove otherwise.

There are union activists, suspected communists, an AWOL soldier and even a film crew poking about. All seem intent on keeping Tyler from finding out the real crime in the munitions-factory blast. But ignorance – of events, of people, of cant – is the real evil here. With great historical detail, solid characters and a really good plot, this series is another winner for Jennings. Fans of the Foyle's War TV series should rejoice.

Eleven Pipers Piping
By C.C. Benison, Doubleday Canada, 474 pages, $29.95

Ho Ho Ho! Father Tom Christmas is back with another slick murder mystery. The setting, of course, is the exquisite rural village of Thornford-Regis, and amid the winter's snow, it's time for the annual Robbie Burns Dinner – and, of course, a performance of the local pipe band. Father Christmas would rather face root canal surgery, but duty calls, and he's at the event. A stranger appears and a piper disappears and is found dead. This is a great whodunit in the best British tradition. Benison, who lives in Winnipeg, clicked with his previous Christmas novel and a third is on the way. If a cozy for Christmas is your desire, start here.

A Small Hill To Die On
By Elizabeth J. Duncan, Minotaur, 288 pages, $28.99

Fans of Louise Penny should check out Torontonian Elizabeth Duncan's sweet series set in rural Wales. Llanelen may not be as precious as Three Pines, but it's just as deadly, and local spa owner Penny Brannigan always seems to be close to the corpse. This time, Penny is doing some plein air painting when she trips over the body of Ashlee Grimstead, daughter of a wealthy local woman. There are local tales galore, and Penny's love interest, DI Gareth Davies, does a turn. But this is Penny's show, and she gathers clues among the daffodils with the best of them.

City of Saints
By Andrew Hunt, Minotaur, 320 pages, $28.99

It's not just the campaign of Mitt Romney that created an interest in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a.k.a. Mormons. We've had Big Love and Sister Wives and questions of everything from the Mountain Meadows Massacre to the meaning of the symbols embroidered on the Temple Garment underwear. Into this truly confusing melange comes University of Waterloo professor Andrew Hunt with an excellent historical novel set in Salt Lake City, circa 1930. The Depression is just beginning to take its toll, and beneath the saintly images of Salt Lake, corruption and evil are rising. When a local socialite is murdered, it falls to Deputy Art Oveson to head into the depths in search of a killer. Hunt, who grew up in Salt Lake, knows his setting and keeps his story focused. This is his first novel. Let's hope it's not his last.